Light-Matter Interactions Unit (Síle Nic Chormaic)

Síle Nic Chormaic

Light-Matter Interactions Unit

Professor Síle Nic Chormaic

sile.nicchormaic at

Welcome to the website of the Light-Matter Interactions Unit here at OIST, led by Prof. Síle Nic Chormaic.   We have three groups in our unit:  NanoBioOptics Group, Neutral Atoms for Quantum Technologies Group and  Optical Cavity and Sensing Group. for more information about our research topics please look at our research page or our publications page.   If you are fascinated by the beauty of light and the enormous role it plays in the world around us then this is the place for you!

We explore light as a tool in classical physics, such as when it can be used to push or pull individual particles (think of where a comet's tail comes from!), or for exploring the dynamics of colloidal particles (such as cells, bacteria, or test spheres), or even light's ability to be used in sensing of very small numbers of particles. 

Of course, there's a world beyond the classical and we also consider light's role in quantum physics, where photons can be used to slow down neutral atoms, in a process known as laser-cooling, or combined with magnetic fields to spatially trap and cool atoms in a magneto-optical trap, where temperatures of about 100 microKelvin are routinely obtained in the lab.  All of these techniques are crucial in the development of future quantum-based technologies relying on neutral atoms.  

In general, we study the interaction between light and matter in a number of regimes, including cold atomic systems, whispering gallery mode microresonators and biologically-relevant samples, to gain a better understanding of the processes involved and to manipulate or trap micron and nanoscaled particles using light fields.  A common technique across our work is the use of optical nanofibres as the interface tool between the light source and the sample under investigation.   Researchers in our unit need/acquire a huge range of skills from optics, atomic physics, simulations, photonics, electronics, vacuum, cryogenics, nanotechnology, interfacing, programming, and so on, and there are some opportunities to gain skills in biophysics and other interdisciplinary topics such as sensing and imaging.   While much of our research focus is fundamental in nature, we use skills that are highly relevant to industry with a focus on nanofabrication, optics, automation, system modelling and control.  

Some of the facilities we have include 2 magneto-optical traps for Rb, 2 optical nanofibre pulling rigs, microfluidics, several microscopes, numerous tunable lasers from visible to near IR, optical spectrum analysers, vector network analyser, high speed oscilloscopes, wavemeters,  optical tweezers, Ti:Saph laser, fs laser, cryostat, clean room with open access, SEM, FIB (dual beam), spatial light modulators, single photon detectors, etc.   

Students interested in studying for a PhDwith us should apply through the OIST Graduate University PhD Programme at or contact us for informal discussions about the entry requirements.    We are seeking students with a strong combination of experimental and analytical skills, with emphasis in classical and quantum optics.    We can only accept students who officially apply through the Graduate School programme, which provides a full scholarship for 5 years and conference travel costs. Previous students are now employed in European and Asian optics-related industries, university research facilities and university resource divisions. 

If you are a student elsewhere and wish to spend a research period of up to 6 months with our group, we'd be happy to consider your application.  OIST also offers a dedicated research intern programme for BSc or MSc students from Japan or Overseas -  details are available at   Please email Prof. Nic Chormaic to discuss opportunities.

Details of our earlier work can be found at here 



The LMI Unit acknowledges funding from OIST, JSPS and JASSO. 

Latest Posts

  • 20 July: New research intern - Lewis Picard

    Welcome to our newest research intern, Lewis Picard, from Durham University. Lewis will spend the next few months working on our cold Rydberg atom experiment and we wish him all the best!

  • 08 July: New intern student - Joanna Lis

    Welcome to the latest summer research intern, Joanna Lis, from University College London, UK.  Joanna will work on whispering gallery resonators during her time at OIST. 

  • 03 July: New LMI Unit member - Dr Georgiy Tkachenko

    Delighted to welcome a new postdoc to our unit this week. Dr Georgiy Tkachenko did his PhD in France and later worked as a postdoc in Scotland before moving to Okinawa. We hope for much success in his research at OIST.